5,000 alpaca keepers take production chain into own hands

Coopecan in Peru is a cooperative of alpaca keepers. Between 2012 and now, the cooperative has taken enormous steps forward: from the procurement of its own alpaca fibre processing machines and the establishment of two trademarks, to the hiring of renowned designers and entry onto the international fashion market.

Coopecan traditionally focusses on increasing the production of alpaca fibre. Some 5,000 small producers benefit from this process. Coopecan's work directly benefits around 3.3 percent of the families in Peru who keep alpacas. Coopecan is active in 3 of the 5 regions in the country.

Steps in 2011 and 2012
In 2011, Coopecan entered the international market. The cooperative initially only exported 'alpaca tops' (washed, combed and carded fibres). In 2012, the cooperative also entered the competitive world of fashion. Renowned designers were hired to create clothing collections. These designs were presented at the Peru Moda trade fair in 2012 and 2013 - and were a roaring success.

Strengthening the production chain
However, the quality of the raw materials - the alpaca fibres in the regions - sometimes left a little to be desired. Following an analysis of this challenge, in autumn 2012 the cooperative decided to strengthen the production chain. The cooperative wanted to increase and improve fibre production, as well as providing its members with more added value. Agriterra was brought in to work on a consulting process, which was due to continue over several years.

Alongside the consulting assignments, both Agriterra and Coopecan invested 24,000 euros in the project in 2013, 2014 and 2015. With the support of the Peru Opportunity Fund (POF), a project was conducted with the alpaca wool producers in Puquio and Sichuan. The aim: better quality alpaca fibres, and therefore a higher income for the producer.
In 2013, the following significant step was taken: Coopecan registered the trademark 'Pachaqaytu' for its traditional yarns, produced in the shop in Sichuan, as well as its own clothes label, 'Alparcas'.

Closure of alpaca fibre processing company
2013 heralded the arrival of a significant challenge for Coopecan: in February, the alpaca fibre processing company closed down. An attempt was made to find another partner, but the quality did not appear to be up to standard. Fortunately, following negotiations with the new owners, Coopecan was able to continue with the collaboration. In August, processing was up-and-running again. In addition, the cooperative acquired its own machines in autumn 2013 for processing alpaca fibres, thanks to a loan of 530,000 dollars from Oikocredit. As a result, the cooperative ensures a consistent quality of its products and continuity in its revenue.

Strong leadership structure
Another important step during this period was the selection of a cooperative chairperson. To this end, ten representatives from the various organisations received training in leadership, communication and finances. Their performances were evaluated and a suitable chairperson subsequently chosen. Training the ten leaders actively contributes to an improvement in communication between the members and gives them a better insight into cooperative documents.

There was also an increase in the (international) marketing of the alpaca products. The number of international clients rose from four to seven, and the cooperative also attracted two new national customers. Revenue rose by 7%. And all of this despite the fact that the processing company wasn't available for considerable time. A fine example of entrepreneurship that's now paying off for all the alpaca keepers involved. 

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